French Restaurants in Oxford
1. Pierre Victoire French restaurant in Oxford Little Clarendon St - OX1
This “old-school” Gallic bistro is “consistently good in every way, and still probably the best-value food within walking distance of the city centre”. It’s also “much better than the chain used to be” (having split off when that company went spectacularly bust 25 years ago).
2. Pompette French restaurant in Oxford 7 South Parade - OX2
The “consistently high standard of cooking” at this French wine bar and bistro from Laura & Pascal Wiedermann (ex-Terroirs) in the north Oxford suburb of Summertown make it a valued favourite for numerous reporters, some of whom had their best meal of the year here. The “professional team makes us very welcome”, and the “set meals are really good value”.
3. Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons French restaurant in Great Milton Church Road - OX44
“Go on, spoil yourself!". This “fabulous” fifteenth-century manor house is regularly the most commented-on destination outside London in our annual diners’ poll, and consistently one of the highest rated. Founded by Raymond Blanc in 1984, he remains its public face, although ownership nowadays is in the hands of LVMH and the executive head chef is Gary Jones. A visit here often starts with a tour (“so interesting!”) around the “spectacular and peaceful” grounds and kitchen gardens: TV star Blanc helped pioneer the current vogue for sustainable produce grown on-site, and herbs and veg from the gardens regularly feature in the dishes. Gradual expansion has created over 23 bedrooms and suites, and “for a special occasion, especially a romantic one”, a night away here is many couples’ first choice (“words cannot describe the joy this place brings to my wife and me”… “It’s an annual pilgrimage just to reset the benchmark of what dining perfection should be”). As an all-round experience, it’s hard to match. “You are made to feel special the second you set foot inside”; a spell in the “cosy” lounges bookends a meal with aperitifs and coffee; and “the finishing touches are what makes dining here such a pleasure”. Since Covid, the only option now is a tasting menu format. Some long-time guests miss the à la carte, although the classical-ish modern French cuisine is almost invariably still applauded for its “complete culinary precision” and “exceptional” flavours (“one of the best meals we have ever eaten…we ran out of superlatives!”). Opinions vary on whether the best tables are those in the dining conservatory, or elsewhere in the body of the house and extensions. Even fans caution: “be in no doubt that the trip is very, very expensive” (in particular, there are “enormous mark-ups on the wine list”, which is as heavyweight as you might expect). But they still recommend a trip “goes on the bucket list”… “Yes! you are worth it!!". (Watch this space, as some change is afoot. In July 2022 the local council approved a plan for a £36m expansion at the property, to lead ultimately to a bistro, spa and new garden suites – the aim being to encourage guests to extend their stay).
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